What is the best movie of all time? Casablanca? No! Citizen Kane? Was that even in colour? Maybe The Godfather, you might say. You might, but you’d still be wrong. If you had said The Godfather II, we might have had some respect for you. Any movie where Joe Pesci plays a gangster? Great try, we love us some mean Joe Pesci, but still no. The best movie of all time is The Shawshank Redemption, based on the Stephen King short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. It’s one of those movies where, any time we run across it playing on TV, we watch it – commercials and all, even though we’ve seen it dozens of times.
Have you ever been driving through Ohio and thought to yourself “What the f*ck is there to do in Ohio?” If you’ve ever been to Ohio, that exact thought has probably gone through your mind.
So what does the best movie ever, set in the countryside of Maine, have to do with being bored in Ohio? A surprising amount! As it happens, most of the movie was actually filmed in and around the small town of Mansfield, Ohio. Fans of the movie, or anyone who happens to be in Mansfield with a few hours to kill, can follow the surprisingly popular and well-marked Shawshank Trail to see many of the best known filming locations.
Now, we didn’t go to all 15 stops. The last one is in the US Virgin Islands (doubling as the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico), so would have been a bit of a drive. And a swim. But we did go to most of them.
Stop 1: Shawshank State Prison
Most of the movie was filmed at the former Ohio State Reformatory. The actual prison, built in the late 1800’s, closed down in 1990 before being used as Shawshank in 1994. Interestingly, there is a working prison next door, so you need to be careful not to take pictures out of certain windows or pick up any hitchhikers in the area.
Some of the movie props were left around the prison, including the infamous “hole in the wall” that Andy Dufresne carved with his rock hammer. Spoiler alert! He escapes.
The prison itself was very interesting to explore. While much of the prison has been left to decay, giving the whole place an eerie feel, there are interactive displays throughout to explain the actual history of the prison as well as background information of the several movies that had been filmed there.
Stop 2: The Brewer Hotel
This building was only ever filmed from the outside, but represented both the Brewer halfway house where Brooks went after being released, and the front office of the Portland Daily Bugle newspaper. Interestingly, the set for Brooks’ room in the movie was actually back in the prison.
Stop 3: The Antique Store
On one of the main streets in Mansfield, up the street from The Brewer, is the shop where Red buys a compass near the end of the movie. Hey, not all the stops are exciting.
Stop 4: Brooks’ Park Bench
After Brooks got out of prison, there is a scene with him sitting on a park bench feeding the birds, hoping to run into his former pet bird Jake. It was kind of a sad scene. Anyway, the actual park is a town square in Mansfield. The bench shown in the movie has since been removed and replaced with a gazebo. So they just slapped a “Shawshank Trail” sign on some other random bench. Oh well… Ironically, there is a sign in the park saying “Don’t feed the Birds”. Just kidding, but that would have been funny, right? Right? No? Oh well…
Stop 5: Renaissance Theatre
The Renaissance Theatre in downtown Mansfield is where the movie premiered. We didn’t care that much, so we didn’t check it out.
Stop 6: Road to Buxton
Red hitchhikes out of town to find the old oak tree that Andy told him to find. He’s let out on the side of a road in the countryside of Maine near the town of Buxton. In reality, it’s a country road just outside of Mansfield.
Stop 7: Red’s Bus Ride
After finding Andy’s note under the oak tree, Red books himself a ticket to Fort Hancock, Texas. The scene in the movie shows his bus driving down another country road. Well, here it is!
Stop 8: The Old Oak Tree
Unfortunately, the old oak tree is no more. After being damaged by several storms over the years, the 200 year old tree was taken away in 2016. But you can still stand at the edge of the field and imagine an old tree there. Unfortunately we didn’t see any stone wall. And no matter how hard we looked, we didn’t find any rocks around “that had no earthly business in a Maine hayfield”. It’s kind of hard to picture the tree there because the field looks nothing like it did in the movie. But the Shawshank Trail sign was there, so we knew we were in the right place.
Stop 9: Malabar Farm State Park
This state park really has nothing to do with the movie, except it is near both Stop 8 and Stop 10. Apparently, James Whitmore (Brooks) and Morgan Freeman (Red) got personal tours of the farmhouse in the park. So there’s that, I guess. Oh yeah, and apparently a spot in the park is the best viewpoint for the oak tree that no longer exists. At this point in the tour, it felt a bit like they were padding the list.
Stop 10: The Cabin Where Andy Didn’t Kill His Wife
Located within the Malabar Farm State Park is the Pugh cottage. This is where the opening scene of the movie was filmed where Andy is in his car, getting drunk and debating whether to kill his cheating wife and her lover. The cabin can actually be rented, perfect for that illicit getaway!
Stop 11: Maine National Bank and Stop 12: Trailways Bus Station
Both of these stops were further away, in another town called Ashland. Since the bank, with it’s recognizable vault, is a private building, visitors are apparently not welcome. The building where Red bought his bus ticket to the Mexico border is actually a thrift store. Neither stop sounded too exciting, so we skipped them.
Stop 13: Courthouse and Stop 14: Woodshop
The courthouse where Andy was convicted and the Shawshank prison woodshop where they are seen working during the movie are both in another town, even further north, called Upper Sandusky. The courthouse is actually a real court room, so visitors are not welcome when court is in session. Again, we skipped both of these stops, and don’t feel we missed anything.
Stop 15: Zihuatanejo
Probably one of the most famous and satisfying scenes in the movie is the final one, with Red walking along the beach and reuniting with Andy. It’s a surprise to most people that this scene doesn’t occur in the original story, with the book ending with Red on his way to Mexico. The actual scene was shot on the island of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. We haven’t been there yet, but it’ll be next on the list 😉 We’ll add a picture once we’ve been!